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Career Counselors: Employment Info & Qualifications

Read on to learn what career counselors do. See what the education and training requirements are. Get career information to see if this job is right for you.

Career Definition for Career Counselors

Career counselors help others to recognize their talents and identify their goals while working toward careers. Career counselors can work with community-based or government agencies, businesses, colleges or universities, or private practices. Career counselors assist their clients, who often include recent college graduates and other unemployed adults, with exploring career options and searching and applying for jobs. They help with education plans and arrange for tests or licensing. Career counselors also evaluate their clients' training and expertise and teach them how to balance work and family.

EducationGraduate degree in counseling or graduate certificate in career counseling
Job DutiesHelp clients explore career options, search and apply for jobs, create education plans, arrange for tests or licensing, and balance work and family life
Median Salary (2015)*$53,660 (all educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors)
Job Growth (2014-2024)*8% (all career and school counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

In most instances, a prospective career counselor may begin his or her education with a bachelor's degree in any field; however, some master's programs require a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related discipline. The next step is earning at least a master's degree in counseling with an emphasis in career counseling. If a student already has a master's degree, he or she may be able to enroll in a graduate certificate program in career counseling. Typical courses in a career counseling program include career and job searches, group counseling, counseling theory, and career development.

Licensure Requirements

Licensure requirements for career counselors vary by state and type of employment, although it's common for career counselors in private practice to need a license. Requirements generally include a master's degree and a minimum amount of work experience, plus an exam.

Skills Required

Career counselors should have a passion for helping others and must be able to work with people of all races, ages, and cultural backgrounds. They must be ethical, trustworthy, and able to inspire confidence in their clients. Career counselors also must be able to separate their work and personal lives to minimize stress.

Career and Economic Outlook

Demand for school and career counselors in general is expected to grow, with positions predicted to increase by 8% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for an educational, guidance, school, or vocational counselor in 2015 was $53,660, according to BLS figures.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Social Worker

Social workers help people who are having problems, whether they're employment-, personal-, family-, or health-related. They sit down and talk with clients to identify issues and the steps required for meeting goals (like getting a job) or adjusting to new situations (like a divorce). Social workers who meet education and licensing requirements may also treat clients in private practice that may be experiencing behavioral, emotional, or mental problems. Social workers with a bachelor's degree can get an entry-level, direct service job; in some cases, state licensing is required. Those who want to work in clinical practice as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) need a master's degree, work experience, and a state license.

Social workers in general can expect job growth of 12% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. Child, school, and family social workers earned median pay of $42,350 in 2015, per the BLS, while mental health and substance abuse social workers earned median pay of $42,170, and healthcare social workers earned $52,380 that same year.

High School Teacher

High school teachers typically offer subject-specific instruction to students in the upper grades of 9-12. They create and deliver lessons; develop assignments; administer exams; assign reports for students to complete; grade papers; confer with students, parents, and other teachers regarding student progress as needed; and help students prepare for life after high school, whether that includes college or employment.

High school teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree in the subject they want to teach and a state teaching license, which usually requires passing a series of exams; private school teachers may be exempt. Teachers are sometimes also required to eventually earn a master's degree, depending on the state. The BLS predicts that jobs for high school teachers are expected to grow 6% from 2014-2024. High school teachers (not counting those who taught vocational or special education students) earned median pay of $57,200 in 2015, per the BLS.

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